Are sales hunters going the way of the dinosaurs? Is cold calling dead? We’re told by sales experts that prospecting is no longer effective in this age of social media and information abundance. You have to find new customers through referrals and social media, and cold calling is ineffective.
Mike Weinberg begs to differ, and has written New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development to solve that problem. He makes an eloquent case for the continuing need for old-fashioned prospecting: selecting targets, cold calling and making appointments to generate new business.
I usually don’t read books about prospecting, because I think of them like diet books—the theory is simple but the doing is hard. Everyone knows that you have to eat less and exercise more, and it’s hard for a book to say something new on the subject or to motivate you for long. That being said, Weinberg has come through and delivered an excellent book which outlines a clear path for generating more revenue and brining in new customers, as long as you’re willing to do the work.
The promise implied in the title of the book is kept. Mike writes in a direct and compelling style, stripping out all unnecessary complexity and jargon out of the simple process of prospecting. Prospecting is a function of numbers, discipline and skill. The first three chapters are about the motivation and discipline needed, and the rest of the book provides the skill in three sections:
Choosing your targets. The key issue is to focus. Although prospecting is generally seen as a numbers game, you can stack the numbers in your favor by quickly eliminating the low-percentage prospects and then selecting a finite and realistically workable list. Weinberg suggests finding companies that “look, feel, and smell” like your best clients. You know you bring value to them, and you have instant credibility, and you speak their language. Then, target their senior executives with the sales story that you develop in the second section.
Marshaling your sales weapons. The most important weapon in your arsenal is your sales story. An effective sales story is written in outside-in fashion; instead of yourself and your company, you need to make the customer the center of your story. I found this to be the most helpful section of the entire book, in that it made me do something I rarely do when I read a sales book. I took out a pen and several sheets of paper and worked through the exercise that Mike suggests for creating a compelling sales story. The first step is to brainstorm as many possible ways as you can think of to complete this sentence: “Companies bring us in when…” You then list common pains you can eliminate, problems you can solve, opportunities you can help them take advantage of, and results they need to generate. The second step is to honestly list your differentiators in plain language. It’s a simple exercise, but very eye-opening and very productive.
Planning and executing the attack. I have some differences of opinion with Mike’s suggested approach in this section, but overall I believe his method is very sound and will be effective, for any sales hunters. The main difference might be that I and the clients I generally work with are going after very large accounts, so that there is a smaller population to choose from and a more rifle-shot approach is necessary. I’d like to see more “warming up” the cold call by sending email or using a referral before the first call, and more detailed sales call planning. That said, the differences between us are only in degree, and not in kind.
If you are reasonably new in sales and need a solid and complete manual to learn how to prospect, New Sales. Simplified. is an excellent book for you. If you have been around for a long time and need kick in the back of the pants to get you re-started, plus some excellent suggestions for refining and improving your approach, then this is also the book for you.
This book may make you uncomfortable; it will make you money.
 In The Challenger Sale, we’re told that buyers on average have already gone through 60% of their buying cycle before they speak to a salesperson. Maybe that’s because salespeople have stopped calling them.